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OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) Notes App

Contributed by Stephen Coles on Jul 27th, 2012. Artwork published in .
OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) Notes App
Photo: Stephen Coles. License: CC BY-SA. Artwork by Stephen Coles.

You’re looking at Noteworthy, an Apple typeface that has been around on OS X for about a year (since Lion 10.7), but was unknown to most users unless they stumbled on it in their font menu. It is the default font for the new Notes app in OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion). It’s a fun little retro ditty, but this choice is arguably worse than the notorious Marker Felt, used for the first versions of Notes in iOS and almost universally mocked. Its very tight letterspacing and playful shapes make it even less readable and legible than Marker Felt.

Fortunately, unlike the hacks that were required of iOS users who wanted to free themselves of Marker Felt, the Notes app does allow you to engage the Fonts panel and use any font you wish. But it’s another disappointing default choice from Apple.

Also, Notes wants to automatically align everything to the lines in the skeuomorphic background. Cute, but it doesn’t do a great job deciding when to jump the type to two lines. See how the change in font in the first paragraph confuses the automated linespacing.

There is no designer credited in Noteworthy’s font copyright info, but the vendor field is assigned to Apple. The design is based on a Filmotype face called Alice/Brooklyn, though the original source could be any of many very similar fonts from the early phototypesetting era (1950s–’60s). There is a bold but no italics.


  • Noteworthy




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30 Comments on “OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) Notes App”

  1. The design is what it is, but the spacing is too tight for the size the font is used at. Look at the “ilm” combination in “Filmotype” for instance, the verticals cramp together, there is no white to balance the counters. Improved spacing would at least make the font more legible.

  2. Richard Wills says:
    Jul 28th, 2012 8:09 pm

    For certain writing projects I still use Appleworks in OS9 on my old Mac G3 just so I can continue to use that most legible of scalable fonts Chicago!

    For writing on my MBP I use the American Typewriter font, even though every writing program has a hissyfit about my fumbling attempts to make it my personal default font.

  3. Robert says:
    Jul 28th, 2012 8:34 pm

    Agreed about Noteworthy, however, to touch on a tangent from your post…


    Q:  do you know what’s even more annoying than Apple’s faux leather and stitching?

    A:  having to constantly read the oh-so-trendy word “skeuomorphic” on every other blog after that hack Duarte popularized it’s usage last year


    in case anyone was wondering:

    skeuomorph:  an object or feature which imitates the design of a similar artefact in another material.


    I don’t even think we can all universally agree that “skeuomorphic” is even the most appropriate word to describe the UI phenomenon the blogosphere just loves to whine about, let alone that the choice of a UI design that mimics a real world object is as horrible as these crybabies make it out to be.



  4. It looks like they just kept the default form Notes on the iPad. On the iPad they use the bold, which is less cramped and looks decent on a retina display.

    I admint, on the iMac I switched to Heletica almost immediately. The normal (not bold) Noteworthy font combined with a relativly small size (on a 27 inch screen) is very hard to read.

  5. I actually disagree, although I am a typegeek, and a big fan of yours, and good typography, I think it is very nice indeed. Quirky, yes, cool, no, but very likable. Like Comic Sans, it has it’s uses. And since Notes, is an app targeted at newbies, not nerds like us. And I think it makes for something very approachable. Like “ohh, how cute, I could totally write my notes in this”. ALso the tight letterspacing, is highly functional in this situation. And I find it more that readable enough.

  6. dafuser says:
    Jul 28th, 2012 9:04 pm

    Who really cares what the default font is?  It’s not like it’s the only font you can use. If you don’t like it, you can change it. Everything is good. 

  7. What is it with the Mac OS and crummy handwriting typefaces? Between Comic Sans, Chalkboard, Marker Felt and now Noteworthy, they’re all ugly or unfit for reading on a routine basis.

    I do really like Segoe Print, which ships with Windows 7. Apple ought to license or clone that one.

  8. Noteworthy has been on iOS as a font choice since 5.0 I think?  It’s at the top of the list in the settings section.

  9. I’m glad more people are finally taking Apple to task about their increasing pedestrian, whimsical, and just plain fugly graphic decisions incorporated in the Mac OS. Can we talk about those dingbats at the bottom of the page too?

    I wonder why they don’t have a tasteful Johnny Ive type graphic talent to handle the UI design like he handles the product design.


  10. Fumo Mofu says:
    Jul 28th, 2012 11:08 pm

    I like it…very fun to use.

  11. I’m surprised, too, that Noteworthy made it as default in Mountain Lion. I find the regular Notes app for iOS, which I sometimes use in meetings (eschewing a proper notebook that would make me look more professional) takes a lot of concentration. If I get something whilst unloading from the train, I really have to dive into my phone.

    It IS hard to read. And now it’s default in ML. 

    I’m with Google here – Apple’s design of apps/applications to look like their physical counterparts is poor design that ruins the interface of a digital device. Noteworthy is an unexcellent example of how their ethic is ruining interfaces. Overall, the left to right, up to down design plus universal menu system is excellent, but they are off.

    Digital devices should NOT emulate physical devices. Default fonts for apps that can be used seriously should NOT try to emulate cute handwriting. You’re spot on here.

  12. Robert Vasquez says:
    Jul 29th, 2012 3:21 am

    Its very tight letterspacing and playful shapes make it even less readable and legible than Marker Felt.

    On what basis do you justify that assertion? I can still read Noteworthy from down the hall.

    Also, God stomps a kitten every time a hipster designer uses the sk-word. Cut it out.

  13. Huntersli says:
    Jul 29th, 2012 1:54 pm

    I have been struggling to understand why this choice in font is so disliked.

    The individual characters work well and have clearly been designed to complement each other when grouped into words, sentences, paragraphs etc. The glyph are well sized and spaced allowing for greater readability. 

    The font appears to have a good balance between readability and legibility and not forgetting that it is appropriate for the user and the message it is conveying. Arguably a classic and highly legible type face like Sabon would have been a good alternative, personally, I feel it would not have produced the same overall aesthetic. 

    Other similar and popular applications, Colour Note and AK Note to name but two, both use rounded and decorative typefaces without excessive ornamentation. applications of this nature are capable of using more decorative typeface because it is often the only typeface in use on the page at the time. With a website for example there can be 3,4 or 5 different typefaces in use this will force a designer to use a more conservative typeface to ensure the reader is not being strained. 

    In all a font cannot just be chosen because of its readability and legibility,  other factors like technical limitations, context, mood, aesthetics, and design intent need to be taken into account. Remember it is meant to emulate a notepad.

    I own both an IPad and a Transformer :-)

  14. Dear Mr. Coles,

    After reading your 'review’ on the Noteworthy font, I decided I had to email you, because I personally dissagree with your opinion. 

    I have been using the particular font for a long while now, before it came as default for Notes. I used it all the time on Scrivener when I was writing and editing my novel. In the review above you mention how the font not readible/legible and the letterspacing is very tight. There is only one instance in which I would agree with your comment, and that is, I believe it does not favor people who might be suffering from dislexia. But yet again, as you said, everyone can change the font as they wish. 

    There are many reasons why I believe that Noteworthy is the wisest choice  for the Notes app. First, it is that it is way better than Marker Felt, which had an unneccessary boldness, and reminded one more of a miniature white board than a notepad. Second, I believe that the reason why Apple chose Noteworthy, was not because it is 'cute’. It’s becasue it 'fits’. While fun little retro ditty, as one might call it, it is also calligraphic, personal and neat. Not exaggerated like Marker Felt and not typografic like Helvetica.  

    The mood it is designed to transmit is very specific in this case. The note page is designed to ressemble a common paper notepad in all its details. The faded vintage yellow, the thin lines and the torn pages on top. There are many apps one can use to take notes on OS X , all of them diverse so that one can chose the one that fits his/her needs and taste best. 


  15. Matthew says:
    Jul 29th, 2012 8:13 pm

    And, I’ll be staying with Notational Velocity as my note-taking app.  It syncs with SimpleNote on my iPhone too!

  16. Although, “Disliked by a small handfull of type geeks on the internet and myself” doesn’t sound as sensational as “almost universally mocked”…

  17. hannahjs says:
    Jul 30th, 2012 7:38 pm

    Default, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings. — W. Shakespeare

  18. Chris Lyn says:
    Jul 31st, 2012 1:37 am

    The tracking is too tight. I think if it was opened up a little bit, readability would be greatly improved.

  19. Subramanya says:
    Jul 31st, 2012 4:38 am

    I concur totally. Apple has been making a couple of very disastrous design choices lately. Simple clean fonts make these things more usable both while typing and while reading the notes later. While some amount of decoration is fine, going overboard with things like the remnants of torn sheets only distracts. Instead of focussing on long term usability of software — Apple I think is focussing too much on short term kicks. “Ooh look the notes app looks like a little legal pad” can last only so long — no matter how computer savvy you are. Even if apple insists on making that the default look, there should be an option to turn it off as some people might find the colour a bit irritating. (I can’t stand writing on anything other than white sheets.)

    The more I see of Microsoft’s design direction (especially on phones and tablets), the more I like it. The minimalism lets one focus on the task at hand without getting diverted by the surroundings. Incidentally this was one of the first things that attracted me to the Mac. How simple well thought out and uniform all the apps were. Apple seems to be losing site of this and now each one of them has a look and feel that is different. Notes looks completely different from Reminders looks completely different from iCal looks completely different from Contacts. And they all look messy. 

  20. Maybe the low readability is a conspiracy to sell more retina displays ;-) But the tight letterspacing of Noteworthy isn’t the best idea on an iPhone in terms of improving text selection ability, which I’ve always found fairly clunky already. I respect Apple’s choice to be whimsical but there are plenty of other, better handwriting fonts out there.

  21. Someone may have already posted this, but in case anyone wishes to change the default font to something other than the three available options (in Mountain Lion 10.8), there are instructions here:

    I ended up using 15px, Requiem Fine Roman, and this works well against the ruled backdrop. There is probably a way of including new fonts in the default list, but I have not figured that out yet.

  22. Thanks much, Pradip Malde, for the link to instructions for changing the default! I’m fine with Apple setting any default they want, but I want to be able to change the default to my own preferences; I think it’s bizarre that Apple allows only three options for default font in Notes in Mountain Lion.

    So I’m very pleased (and relieved) to learn that there’s a way to change those options.

    Side note re another topic in these comments: I love the word “skeuomorphic”; it’s a nifty word, and it’s useful and appropriate to this kind of context. Nobody on this page said that skeuomorphism is evil; it’s pretty cool in many contexts. The concern that I’ve seen elsewhere (one instance of which is mentioned briefly in passing in the original post here) is that Apple is taking it too far; I think that’s a valid concern, and when discussing that issue, it’s much more compact and convenient to use the word “skeuomorphism” than to keep saying “that thing where recent Apple applications try too hard to mimic real-world counterparts” over and over again.

    And I can’t tell what anyone on this thread has against the word, other than the perception that it’s being used by hipsters. (Lest anyone make the obvious assumption, I should note that I’m not nearly cool enough to be a hipster.)

  23. Leisureguy says:
    Aug 10th, 2012 4:04 am

    The new Notes is a frustrating experience: I want a single-spaced numbered list, but so far have been forced to double-space each list item. I don’t think this will be useful-—too bad, the Notes in 10.7 was something I had become accustomed to using, but this thing is too controlling and heavy handed.

    I did immediately switch font to Helvetica-—the default font is awful, at least for me.

  24. Noteworthy is a great font! It’s fun and playful!  And of course you can change it if you don’t like it. 

    I’ll admit, I prefer it at a larger size.  It would be nice if I could lock it in at 18.  

    Othewise, it’s my go to for notes and Journal apps.


  25. SGaller says:
    Jan 7th, 2013 2:11 pm


    I like the notes application and haven’t had an issue with any of the fonts as far as readability goes, but sometime last year I started getting double spaced notes which I completely hate!  

    I think it has to do with the age of some of the notes and probably the Lion upgrade.  Does anyone know how to get them back to single spaced notes?

    Thank you. SGaller

  26. I can’t figure out how to get out of the double spacing either.   It’s kind of driving me crazy how long I’ve spent trying to figure this out already.  I think the default font is goofy too.  I wonder if my mom is working at Apple and making these decisions.  No biggie though really.  

  27. I used notes all the time when it was part of Mail. I found it invaluable. The new application is childish and clumsy with limited options.

    Bring back Mail Notes – or at least include it as an option.

    Im reduced to going back to Text Edit for notes, or draft emails


  28. How do I get my “NOTES” back to single space?

  29. I just love how all of the people complaining about the font don’t even know how to punctuate correctly and forget to use the spacebar. It just makes people value their opinion even more. (

  30. One way to get notes single spaced is to hit control + enter and the next line is single spaced.  This, obviously, isn’t optimal, but it’s the best that I know of.  

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